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The Selected Poems of Tu Fu Paperback – June 17, 1989


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The Selected Poems of Tu Fu + The Selected Poems of Li Po + Classical Chinese Poetry: An Anthology
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 172 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (June 17, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811211002
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811211000
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #473,753 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Tu Fu said ‘A poet's ideas are noble and simple.’ But Tu Fu does not seem so simple to us. His richly-layered work is well represented in these crisp translations. The background notes are invaluable. One of the world's finest poets is made available here.” (Gary Snyder)

About the Author

David Hinton's many translations of classical Chinese poetry and philosophy have earned wide acclaim for creating compelling contemporary texts that convey the actual texture and density of the originals. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship as well as numerous fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 1997, he received the Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets. He lives in East Calais, Vermont.

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Customer Reviews

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A must for any lover of poetry or those interested in T'ang China.
doc peterson
The translations were by David HInton, who, by my somewhat limited experience of reading translations of the great Chinese poets, is the best.
T. McLaughlin
It is a gift to be sure and one that will stay with you for a very long time.
Wileycoyote1

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By tepi on June 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
THE SELECTED POEMS OF TU FU. Translated by David Hinton. 173 pp. New York : New Directions, 1989, and Reissued.
Tu Fu (712-790) was one of China's greatest poets, and the present book, after a brief 9-page Introduction, gives us a comprehensive selection of his poems, arranged chronologically, annotated, and in adequate translations of varying degrees of success.
Here is an example of Hinton's style, the first four lines of an eight-line poem, selected at random from the poem 'Skies Clear at Dusk' (and with my obliques added to indicate line breaks) :
"Dusk's failing flare breaks out. Clouds / Thin and drift - none return. Distant, / Bright, a rainbow drinks at the river. / Rain in the gorge falls - remnants scatter" (p.78).
Tu Fu is not an easy poet to translate, and readers with access to David Hawke's bilingual edition of Tu Fu, or to A. C. Graham's 'Poems of the Late T'ang, might find it interesting to compare Hinton's approach with theirs.
His book, which also includes a useful 17-page Biography which is keyed to the poems, quite full Notes, a Finding List, a Bibliography, and an Index of Titles and First Lines, would make a handy introduction for anyone new to Tu Fu.
But if, after reading it, you'd really like to discover what lies behind Tu Fu's poetry, and learn something of how his poetry works, you might take a look at the excellent bilingual anthology by Wai-lim Yip which contains a detailed treatment of a number of Tu Fu's poems. Details are as follows :
CHINESE POETRY : An Anthology of Major Modes and Genres. Edited and translated by Wai-lim Yip. 358 pp. Durham NC and London : Duke University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8223-1951-9 (pbk.)
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
Tu Fu was China's greatest poet in most people's estimation. His unconventional use of classic forms illuminates the deep, familial joys and simple pleasures as well as the almost inconceivable sorrows people suffered during the middle years of the tenth century as China plunged from the cultural height of the middle T'ang dynasty to the depths of disaster caused by invasion, civil war, flooding, famine and the break down of civilization in all its forms. Though many people speak of Asian poetry as being symbolic and impersonal, the poems of Tu Fu are often highly personal and reveal a man who struggles to hold his family together and maintain his awesome dignity while being battered from the unparalleled luxury of the imperial palace to the desperation of a refugee fleeing barbaric armies killing everything in their path. Few poets will ever experience the horrible history that Tu Fu saw and survived, and few have ever recounted the moments of their lives half as well.
Many fine poets and translators have made excellent English versions of this master poet, but none has succeeded any better in terms of accuracy, clarity and lyricism than David Hinton. The Selected Poems of Tu Fu provides a wonderful sampling of the old gentleman's great diversity and adds the historical explanations that will prove invaluable to the new reader approaching this subject for the first time. I highly recommend this book and believe it belongs on every poet's book shelf.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. McLaughlin on June 29, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very fine exploration into the work of Tu Fu. The introduction, the translation, the biography and notes constitute a portrait of the man and the cultural world he inhabited. One always has to wonder how valid a translation of 8th century Chinese poetry into 21st century American can be, and clearly any translator is creating a new being based on sympathies and guesswork, and T'ang Dynasty history homework.

But there is a qualitative hierarchy of understanding that provides that the highest perceptions remain comprehensible through and despite changes of time. This comprehensible "something" is not easy to specify, and specification would kill it. Hence the need for poetry. But there is a certain emotional context to Tu Fu's poems about the hardships and momentary joys of his life that is missing from our cultural world, and that is always missing, for which there is always a remote nostalgia. A sense of the realness of life, the seriousness of it, the ultimate goodness of it, or maybe I should say that they, the poems, are explorations of the miracle of selfness in the world of sad events.

The printing in the book is painfully black and inky, but apart from that, it's great.

The translations were by David HInton, who, by my somewhat limited experience of reading translations of the great Chinese poets, is the best. There is an element of mindfulness to these poems and to other poets Hinton has translated - re-construed - that most of the translators miss. In fact, the mindfulness, the watching, no matter what the personal favorability of the circumstances is the whole point. Transcendent emotions grounded in daily life.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on August 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Poetry in translation naturally loses some of its power and beauty - and in reading David Hinton's translations, there is a sense of "clunkiness" to some of the poems. Still, the raw emotion, passion and tragedy of Du Fu's life is apparent here. While I cannot comment on changes to style or content in classical Chinese poetry that Du Fu apparently introduced, the intensely personal nature of his work are far from the abstract symbolism typically associated with poetry. These are the poems of a man who knew how to live - the joys and sorrows and trials of life have an immeadiacy that belies their age. (Du Fu wrote between 737 - 770 CE) An example: "To stand alone - temples bleached with trouble and worry, Defeated .... and here I've just sworn off that blessed wine." What a guy!

What I found most helpful in reading and understanding Du Fu was the chronology for the poems (what was going on as the T'ang Dynasty began to implode and what and where Du Fu was during this time) as well as his notes about each poem, providing information about geographical landmarks and specific events relevant to each poem. A must for any lover of poetry or those interested in T'ang China.
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